Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology/Dictionary preface


The present work has been conducted on the same principles, and is designed mainly for the use of the same persons, as the "Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities." It has been long felt by most persons engaged in the study of Antiquity, that something better is required than we yet possess in the English language for illustrating the Biography, Literature, and Mythology, of the Greek and Roman writers, and for enabling a diligent student to read them in the most profitable manner. The writings of modern continental philologists, as well as the works of some of our own scholars, have cleared up many of the difficulties connected with these subjects, and enabled us to attain to more correct knowledge and more comprehensive views than were formerly possessed. The articles in this Dictionary have been founded on a careful examination of the original sources; the best modern authorities have been diligently consulted; and no labour has been spared in order to bring up the subject to the present state of philological learning upon the continent as well as at home.

A work, like the present, embracing the whole circle of ancient history and literature for upwards of two thousand years, would be the labour of at least one man’s life, and could not in any case be written satisfactorily by a single individual, as no one man possesses the requisite knowledge of all the subjects of which it treats. The lives, for instance, of the ancient mathematicians, jurists, and physicians, require in the person who writes them a competent knowledge of mathematics, law, and medicine; and the same remark applies, to a greater or less extent, to the history of philosophy, the arts, and numerous other subjects. The Editor of the present work has been fortunate in obtaining the assistance of scholars, who had made certain departments of antiquity their particular study, and he desires to take this opportunity of returning his best thanks to them for their valuable aid, by which he has been able to produce a work which could not have been accomplished by any single person. The initials of each writer’s name are given at the end of the articles he has written, and a list of the names of the contributors is prefixed to the work.

The biographical articles in this work include the names of all persons of any importance which occur in the Greek and Roman writers, from the earliest times down to the extinction of the Western Empire in the year 476 of our era, and to the extinction of the Eastern Empire by the capture of Constantinople by the Turks in the year 1453. The lives of historical personages occurring in the history of the Byzantine empire are treated with comparative brevity, but accompanied by sufficient references to ancient writers to enable the reader to obtain further information if he wishes. It has not been thought advisable to omit the lives of such persons altogether, as has usually been done in classical dictionaries; partly because there is no other period short of the one chosen at which a stop can conveniently be made; and still more because the civil history of the Byzantine empire is more or less connected with the history of literature and science, and, down to the capture of Constantinople by the Turks, there was an interrupted series of Greek writers, the omission of whose lives and of an account of their works would be a serious deficiency in any work which aspired to give a complete view of Greek literature.

The relative length of the articles containing the lives of historical persons cannot be fixed, in a work like the present, simply by the importance of a man's life. It would be impossible to give within any reasonable compass a full and elaborate account of the lives of the great actors in Greek and Roman history; nor is it necessary: for the lives of such persons are conspicuous parts of history and, as such, are given at length in historical works. On the contrary, a Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography is peculiarly useful for the lives of those persons who do not occupy so prominent a position in history, since a knowledge of their actions and character is oftentimes of great importance to a proper understanding of the ancient writers, and information respecting such persons cannot be obtained in any other quarter. Accordingly, such articles have had a space assigned to them in the work which might have been deemed disproportionate if it were not for this consideration. Woodcuts of ancient coins are given, wherever they could be referred to any individual or family. The drawings have been made from originals in the British Museum, except in a few cases, where the authority for the drawing is stated in the article.

More space, relatively, has been given to the Greek and Roman Writers than to any other articles, partly because we have no complete history of Greek and Roman Literature in the English language, and partly because the writings of modern German scholars contain on this subject more than on any other a store of valuable matter which has not yet found its way into English books, and has, hitherto, only partially and in a few instances, exercised any influence on our course of classical instruction. In these articles a full account of the Works, as well as of the Lives, of the Writers is given, and, likewise, a list of the best editions of the works, together with references to the principal modern works upon each subject.

The lives of all Christian Writers, though usually omitted in similar publications, have likewise been inserted in the present Work, since they constitute an important part of the history of Greek and Roman literature, and an account of their biography and writings can be attained at present only by consulting a considerable number of voluminous works. These articles are written rather from a literary than a theological point of view; and accordingly the discussion of strictly theological topics, such as the subjects might easily have given rise to, has been carefully avoided.

Care has been taken to separate the mythological articles from those of an historical nature, as a reference to any part of the book will shew. As it is necessary to discriminate between the Greek and Italian Mythology, an account of the Greek divinities is given under their Greek names, and of the Italian divinities under their Latin names, a practice which is universally adopted by the continental writers, which has received the sanction of some of our own scholars, and is moreover of such importance in guarding against endless confusions and mistakes as to require no apology for its introduction into this work. In the treatment of the articles themselves, the mystical school of interpreters has been avoided, and those principles followed which have been developed by Voss, Buttmann, Welcker, K. O. Miiller, Lobeck, and others. Less Space, relatively, has been given to these articles than to any other portion of the work, as it has not been considered necessary to repeat all the fanciful speculations which abound in the later Greek writers and in modern books upon this subject.

The lives of Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, have been treated at considerable length, and an account is given of all their works still extant, or of which there is any record in ancient writers. These articles, it is hoped, will be useful to the artist as well as to the scholar.

Some difficulty has been experienced respecting the admission or rejection of certain names, but the following is the general principle which has been adopted. The names of all persons are inserted, who are mentioned in more than one passage of an ancient writer: but where a name occurs in only a single passage, and nothing more is known of the person than that passage contains, that name is in general omitted. On the other hand, the names of such persons are inserted when they are intimately connected with some great historical event, or there are other persons of the same name with whom they might be confounded.

"When there are several persons of the same name, the articles have been arranged either in chronological or some alphabetical order. The latter plan has been usually adopted, where there are many persons of one name, as in the case of Alexander, Antiochus, and others, in which cases a chronological arrangement would stand in the way of ready reference to any particular individual whom the reader might be in search of. In the case of Koman names, the chronological order has, for obvious reasons, been always adopted, and they have been given under the cognomens, and not under the gentile names. There is, however, a separate article devoted to each gens, in which is inserted a list of all the cognomens of that gens.

In a work written by several persons it is almost impossible to obtain exact uniformity of reference to the ancient Writers, but this has been done as far as was possible. Wherever an author is referred to by page, the particular edition used by the writer is generally stated; but of the writers enumerated below, the following editions are always intended where no others are indicated: Plato, ed. H. Stephanus, 1578; Athenaeus, ed. Casaubon, Paris, 1597; the Moralia of Plutarch, ed. Francof. 1620; Strabo, ed. Casaubon, Paris, 1620; Demosthenes, ed. Reiske, Lips. 1770; the other Attic Orators, ed. H. Stephanus, Paris, 1575; the Latin Grammarians, ed. H. Putschius, Hanov. 1605; Hippocrates, ed. Kiihn, Lips. 1825-7; Erotianus, ed. Franz, Lips. 1780; Dioscorides, ed. Sprengel, Lips. 1829-30; Aretaeus, ed. Kiihn, Lips. 1828; Rufus Ephesius, ed. Clinch, Lond. 1726; Soranus, ed. Dietz, Regim. Pruss. 1838; Galen, ed. Kiihn, Lips. 1821-33; Oribasius, Aëtius, Alexander Trallianus, Paulus Aegineta, Celsus, ed. H. Stephanus, among the Medicae Artis Principes, Paris, 1567; Caelius Aurelianus, ed. Amman, Amstel. 4to. 1709.

Names of Places and Nations are not included in the Work, as they will form the subject of the forthcoming " Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography."

London, October, 1844.